Review by Drizzy_Drizake

"There went fifty hours of my life, it was worth it"

Yes you read the title correctly, fifty hours. Fifty three to be exact. This is the longest game I have ever played, but it is awesome. Let me start by saying that I am not a Final Fantasy fan. In fact I pretty much hate FF. This is only the third FF game I have played, the others being 7 and 10, and I never finished 10. I purchased the game because a friend convinced me to. I was very sceptical at first, but in the end I loved it. The reason I am saying this is to let you know this review is not written by a longtime FF fan so I was unaffected by changes that more hardcore fans will probably not like. So on to the review...

Story
The story can be an absolute masterpiece at times and a bit sleep inducing at others. Overall I loved the story of this game and it even caused me to shed a few tears (something a video game has not done to me in a very long time) but it does have some big issues that I will address in a moment. I could spend the entire review telling you what the game is about so I will try my best to sum up this work of art. The game takes place on a planet called Cocoon, which neighbors a planet named Pulse. Pulse is said to be a place filled with unimaginable horrors and Cocoon is terrified of it. So much so that were anything from Pulse to make it's way to Cocoon the government would slaughter any civilians who came near it. The planet is run by god like beings called fal'Cie who control everything from food to sunlight. Pulse also has it's own fal'Cie. The fal'Cie sometimes choose random people to carry out a task for them by branding them with a tattoo like mark. When a person receives this mark they see a vision of what they have to do, but nothing else. When this happens that person is now a l'Cie and must complete their task or else turn into a horrible monster. Problem is if the task is completed the reward is turning to crystal. Either way your screwed. Anyway Cocoon l'Cie are viewed as heroic warriors while Pulse l'Cie are viewed as enemies of Cocoon who must be killed. You control six people from Cocoon all together who are connected by one Pulse fal'Cie that turns them all into it's own l'Cie. Thus they are hunted by their own people. The game follows their struggles to survive on the run from the government while also trying to figure out what exactly their task is. A large chunk of the story is just the on the run part. You will spend about 10 hours just watching them run and hide without any advance in the story. If you can push through it though the story picks up and becomes a gripping tale that you wont want to put down.

Besides the large chunk of boring that you must sit through I did have another complaint about the story. A whole lot of the story is not given to you. When the game begins you will be completely lost in about five minutes. In the next twenty minutes you will think you skipped an entire stage it's so confusing. Most of the crucial plot details you need are not given in any scene until much later in the game or in no scene at all. Rather the game has a data log that contains all of the back story and plot details needed to get an idea of what is happening. Some people might be ok with this, but I did not like feeling so lost right off the bat and I did not like having to read through tons of information to understand the story. These details include information on thw whole fal'Cie/l'Cie thing I explained, why characters are doing what their doing, why there is a war going on, and more. Like I said overall the story is great and even a tear jerker at times, but it does have a few flaws.

Gameplay
The reason I have never liked FF games is because I generally hate games that are turn based. Some other things I don't like about FF is the extensive searching you must do to find your next goal and stronger equipment, your health and magic stats carrying over into each fight, if you die you are sent to the main menu, random battles and more. So I was very pleased to see that XIII changed all of that for the most part, but I'm sure this will not please the big long time fans of the series. The game is very linear which I know no other FF game is. There are no huge wide open environments to explore. Every chapter consist of basically one very long pathway to run down with the occasionally side alley containing a chest. Only chapter eleven opens up the exploring factor, but even then only in one area and not by very much. This makes it easy to progress through the game without ever getting lost, but I will admit it does get boring at times. It feels like a long arena of endless battles that I just had to take breaks from at times. Anyone who did enjoy the wide open aspects of the other games will be sorely disappointed. Your enemies can be seen on the field so you have the choice of whether or not to engage them. After each fight your health, magic, etc are completely refilled and should you die the game just places you right before the battle. These were two changes I really loved. Throughout the game you can find new weapons for your characters, but you may not even need them. XIII features an upgrade system for every weapon and accessory in the game. Using materials collected from treasure chest and battles you can upgrade each to become more powerful and in the case of weapons transform into a better weapon entirely. I was able to beat the game with half of my characters keeping the weapon they start with. Now on to the actual battle system. As I said I pretty much hate turn based and this game might as well be turn based, but the complex and innovative battle system was so fun I didn't care. There is a whole lot of elements to the battle system so it is a bit difficult to explain. Basically there is a class for each kind of strategy you may want to use. You have commando (physical attacks) ravager (magic attacks) sentinel (takes damage for the team) medic (healing magic) synergist (buffs the team) and saboteur (debuffs the enemy). Each character can use three of the six classes and you need to build your team accordingly. When fighting you may make one character a commando and another a synergist so that the one attacking becomes stronger. Then should either of you take to much damage you switch to make one of you a medic to heal. The battles require all sorts of changing classes on the fly to fit the situation and it gets pretty intense at times. Rather then attacking then waiting for the enemy to attack a sort of time bar fills up until you can attack again. Depending on how you fight you may be able to get in several more hits then your enemy so it's not exactly a turn based game, but same basic idea. Characters are leveled up by class. Rather then gaining experience you gain crystarium points which you use to level up each character's classes. No matter which class you are currently leveling up things like strength and health will always increase, but certain abilities can only be gotten through certain classes so you must think about what is most important to level up at the time. There is more to the battle system, but those are the basics.

Sound
The music pretty much repeats itself so you will be listening to each areas theme a whole lot. It is nothing special, but nothing bad either. The song that plays during the ending called "My Hands" is really good I will say. I immediately beat the final boss again just to listen to the song. Other then music you have your typical sword swinging, fireball shooting sound effects nothing special there. The voice acting is outstanding. You can really feel the emotion coming from the characters and it is impossible not to become quickly attached to them. The only bad VA I can think of is the character Vanille who has a sort of British accent that is mixed in with endless cheerful attitude. This girl will be happy even if she is shot in the face. Her overly happy attitude gets a little annoying at times, but I actually grew to like her by the end.

Graphics
All I can say is WOW! The graphics are fantastic. The detail in everything is phenomenal right down to the character's locks of hair. It can be hard to tell when your watching a pre rendered scene or not. Each chapter has one basic look depending on the environment so the world around you can get boring at times, but it still looks great.

Replay Value
I really don't know if I could play through this whole game again. You need to devote about a week to beating it just once. There is nothing to do besides the story so your looking at a pretty low replay value. Still I would recommend buying it as your one playthrough could easily take a month depending on what your schedule is like.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/15/10

Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)


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